I love being plant-based. I’m constantly discovering new meals and recipes that keep me from getting bored. And when I travel, I love to find recipes to recreate at home. But before I moved towards a plant-based lifestyle, I had no idea what being vegan meant or how difficult eating out in the South could be for vegetarians.
Southern based cooking tends to feature dairy, meat or is flavored with them. Until a vegetarian friend pointed this out a fear years ago, I had never noticed. I was amazed and enlightened by the difficulty she found eating at the mom & pop places.
I spend a majority of my time in the South. And over time I’ve learned how to navigate making sure I get nutritional meals almost everywhere I go. So, today I thought I’d share a few tips and tricks that I’ve picked up along the way.
Read the menu ahead of time – This may seem silly but with yelp and every other site available, most menus are easily found online. Take the time to look ahead and see what your options are going to be. If you have the ability to suggest a different option, both you and your friends will appreciate it. I know my friends would rather me find something I can eat than sit in front of me eating alone.
Ask questions – Growing up in the south, I know that a good majority of cooked vegetables can be flavored with meat. And thanks to a wonderful caterer on one of my first films in ATL, I’ve learned what other foods can be flavored with meat. For example, always check how they flavor rice at a Mexican restaurant because it’s often done with chicken broth. Even if it seems like a silly question, don’t be afraid to ask.
I try to lightly moderate things instead of just coming in and asking someone to cook me something that isn’t on the menu. But while in Atlanta this past weekend, our waitress pointed out I could swap black beans into my tacos if I wanted. The simplest suggestion but I’d never thought of it. I ended up with two wonderful tacos veggie tacos minus the cream and cheese. Also, I vlogged my trip so check out the video below if you want to see what we got up to.
Be specific – A couple of years ago, we ate dinner at a local movie theater in ATL. It’s one of my favorite places to go. I did my best to ask as many questions up front but I still ended up having to send my plate back more than once. The waitress was super helpful and she knew what I needed. But our communication with the kitchen was a struggle. The problem? Cheese.
I don’t do it all the time and it ends up biting me in the bum if I don’t. Specifying no cheese on and order saves me the headache and the stomachache. Even when it doesn’t say there is cheese, I try to ask. If you can’t have something, don’t be afraid to ask them to leave it off. Need them to cook with oil instead of butter? Ask. Need them to swap the dressing for one that doesn’t have dairy? Ask. They aren’t going to be dealing with the pains you are later for eating it.
Use Instagram – I just finished reading Capture Your Style* and one of the things she suggests is using instagram as a travel guide. It makes total sense but reading that felt like I learned something life changing. I always like to geo-tag my pictures when I eat out somewhere with good plant-based food. I love to share the good food finds. So, if you know you’re going to a certain city, use instagram to help lead the way. And if you aren’t already following me, come join the fun! Let’s find all the good plant-based stuff together.
Do you have any tricks for finding the best plant-based stuff when you travel? Where are some of your favorite places to get?
Until next time